19 March 2009

Dialog - Do you have a pet?

Oye Pablo. ¿Tienes una mascota?
Hey Paul. Do you have a pet?

Sí, José, tengo un pajarito.
Yeah Joe, I have a bird.

¿Qué tipo?
What kind?

Es un periquito. Se llama "Mickey".
He is a parakeet. His name is Mickey.

¿De qué color es tu periquito, azul, blanco, verde, o amarillo?
What color is your parakeet, blue, white, green, or yellow?

Es azul y es muy galán . ¿Y tu? Tienes una mascota?
He is blue and very good looking. And you? Do you have a pet?

Por supuesto. Tengo un pez. Se llama Nemo. El es azul también.
Of course. I have a fish. His name is “Nemo”. He is blue too.

¿Un pez? ¡Qué aburrido!
A fish? How boring!

¿Por qué me dices eso? Mi pez no es aburrido. Él está muy divertido.
Why do you say that? My fish isn't boring. He is a lot of fun.

¿Cómo crees? A que tu pez ni sabe quien eres.
What's the matter with you! I'll bet your fish doesn't even know who you are.

No es cierto. Mi pez me conoce bien.
That's not true. My fish knows me well.

Dime ¿cómo tu sabes, que tu pez te conoce?
Tell me. How do you know that your fish knows you?

En las mañanas cuando lo saludo él está feliz, vivito y coleando.
In the morning when I greet him he is happy, lively, and wagging his tail.

¡Váya hombre! ¡No manches! Me estás tomando el pelo.
Get out of here man! Don't feed me that! You are pulling my leg.

Note: There are some interesting phrases here:

A que - "I'll bet" This is short for "Apuesto que". The infinitive is "apostar", to bet. You can say "apuesto que" with no problem but most people just seem to say "A que" for "I´ll bet".

¿Cómo crees? - Literally translates as “What are you thinking?” but in English we would more likely say “What's the matter with you!”

Vivito y coleando - “Alive and tail wagging”. This phrase is a good one to use when someone asks “¿Cómo amaneciste? ( “How did you greet the dawn?”), or ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?), I guarantee that if you answer “Vivito y coleando” (alive and tail wagging) they will give you a nice big smile and a thumbs up.

¡No manches! - “Don't sh_t me!” or better yet, “No manches güey” - “Don't be sh_tting me man!”. Actually “no manches” is sort of a combination of the verbs “manchar” (to make dirty) and “mamar” (to suckle). A more vulgar form of “No manches” is “No mames” and if you listen to a bunch of youths talking on the street (both boys and girls) it won't be long before you hear someone say “No mames güey”. The “ güey is most often pronounced like “Whey”. If you would like to sound much nicer then just say “No inventes” meaning “Don't make things up” or “Don't exaggerate”.

Me estás tomando el pelo. - I translated this as “You are pulling my leg” but a literal translation would be “You are taking my hair”. In Mexico when you are fooling someone you don't “pull their leg” you “take their hair (or fur)”.

Now I have a confession to make. I have two pets and they were the basis for this dialog. One is a blue parakeet name “Mickey” and the other is a blue Betta tropical fish (Siamese) named “Nemo”. I promised them both that if they were good I would mention them in my blog. One more thing. Nemo really does answer my greeting every morning “feliz, vivito y coleando”.

17 March 2009

Time Warp

The more that I delve into old books about Mexico the more I feel like we are caught in some kind of time warp where things never change. The people change by living and dying, of course, but the culture either doesn't change or it changes ever so slowly. Today I was reading an interesting but literally disintegrating old book called “Exciting Experiences in our War with Mexico” by Marshall Everett published in 1914. It documented the U.S. Intervention during the time of the Mexican Revolution and the landing of U.S. Troops at Veracruz. There is one chapter that sounds so familiar that it almost could have been written by an expatriate American blogger in recent times. Here are some excerpts:

Chapter XVII – Why Mexicans Dislike Americans

“There is no disguising the fact that Mexicans do not like Americans. This is particularly true of the educated class which has most to lose from possible outside interference with the tenure of their land. The Latin is by nature ceremonious. The Anglo-Saxon is by nature abrupt. The two manners do not assimilate and the natures of the two peoples are as different as their manners.”

“A good many Americans who have gone into Mexico with the avowed object of showing the Mexicans how to run a country, how to develop the resources of Mexico, and how to establish a stable government, are not of the type most flattering to the nation they represent, and many of them fail in their private enterprises, a matter of no heartfelt sorrow on the part of the Mexican.”

“The only successes made by Americans in Mexico have been made as a result of consideration for Mexican habits and customs which are as fixed and immutable as the laws of the Medes and Persians. At least it is certain that they cannot be changed in a day or a year or even a century."

(Bob's note: The Medes and Persians who were the ancestors of the present day Iranians had some of the earliest laws know to exist and they were strict and unchangeable. The Biblical Daniel's respectful defiance of a law of the Medes and Persians is what that got him thrown into the lions' den).

“The American's effort to reform everything he comes in contact with is a constant source of complaint against the inhabitants of the Northern republic.”

“The American as well as the Englishman and German are considered by Mexicans to be lacking in the ordinary observances of polite society. The Mexicans delight in metaphor. The American believes in going straight to the point. The Mexicans delight in composing graceful sentences. The American is blunt.”

"The loss of Texas was a hard blow to Mexico and the United States is blamed for that without a possibility of any change in this conviction of American guilt."

“The Mexican say that we took advantage of the difficulties of Mexico in the war of 1847 and conquered her because at the time she was divided against herself.”

“Throughout the republic it is believed that America covets Lower California and is only deterred from a campaign of invasion through fear of foreign complications. Throughout the length and breadth of the Mexican Republic belief is rampant that Americans are exploiting them and their country. They do not take kindly to the ownership of so many of their sources of wealth by American capitalists."

Now I must admit, when I first came to Mexico in January of 1999 I thought, “Well this isn't so bad. It wouldn't take long to put this place in good shape”. I am now embarrassed that I ever thought that way. I am now almost perfectly content with Mexico just the way it is...I say “almost”. There a still just a few little itches that I would like to scratch. I can't help it. I'm an American.

16 March 2009

A Reflection on Genuflection

When I attended Our Lady of Grace Parish Grammar School in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago in the 1950's we started each and every day by attending 8:am morning mass. From the fifth grade on I was an “altar boy” and I often had the honor and the privilege of assisting the priest at morning mass in full view of my classmates. Sometimes I even had to assist at the 6:am mass and return at 8:am to attend mass again with the rest of my class. Getting up at 5:am and trudging through the snow of a Chicago winter to assist at the first morning mass must have been a character builder because most people who know me will attest to the fact that I am a real character. In those days the job of being an altar boy was quite special and it was usually offered to the boys whom the nuns and priest thought might have a priestly vocation. I actually did think about becoming a priest one time...for about ten minutes, and then I shrugged it off. Not long after the time that I became an altar boy I encountered puberty, and puberty is a powerful vocation killer.

In those days an altar boy, or “monaguillo” (mohn-ah-GHEE-yoh) as they are known in Spanish had much more to do that the altar boys or "altar girls" do now besides looking angelic. We had to act as the voice of the people and answer the prayers of the priest in Latin. I still remember much of the Latin and especially the beginning of the mass. The priest would begin by saying:

In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. Introibo ad altare Dei.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. I will go in to the altar of God.

Then the altar boy(s) would answer:
Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.
To God Who giveth joy to my youth.

How beautiful that is! I still say that when I enter a church and walk towards the altar. It takes me back to the joys of my youth and brings peace to my heart.

To be a good altar boy you needed to be able to genuflect ramrod straight. The job demanded it and there was no getting around it. The nuns were always watching and woe to the altar boy who slumped or who didn't keep his hands with palms together and with fingers pointing directly to Heaven right over his heart. In order to genuflect properly you must look at what you are genuflecting toward, bring your the right knee all the way to the floor close to the heel of your left foot, keep your back and your neck straight, and then come back up...all in one fluid motion. If there are two of you side by side you must do it exactly together.

People don't seem to genuflect much any more. Nor do they bless themselves with holy water from the holy water font. In fact you don't often see holy water fonts any more, at least not with holy water in them. When I was a kid people even had holy water fonts in their homes (we had one) and whenever someone entered they would dip a finger in the holy water font and make the sign of the cross. In fact they used to tell jokes about Catholics entering a room and reaching automatically for the holy water or genuflecting in a movie theater before they entered the row of seats. Well, I still like to genuflect when entering the pew before the God of my joy and my youth. When leaving I usually wait, however, until most of the people have already filed out so I don't get trampled on. Besides that I am no longer ramrod straight in my execution and am a bit slow. In fact, the other day I went down on one knee like usual and then I had a hard time getting back up. This really threw me into a panic. Could I possible be getting old?

I decided that I needed to take some positive action and start working on my genuflection ability. I began practicing at home with the aid of a couple chairs going down first on one knee and then on the other. I decided that the two chair maneuver was not the answer and that what I really needed was a big stick that I could plant firmly in front of me and then if I needed help getting back up the stick would allow me to use my arms as well as my legs in a much more efficient manner than the chairs. I went to Home Depot and bought a section of banister railing that would do quite nicely. When my wife Gina saw it she asked me what it is for and in a moment of divine inspiration I told her that it is “Dickey the Stick”. Those of you who are old enough will probably remember the old Johnny Carson routine about “Dickey the Stick” and “Suzy the Rope”, the toys that never need batteries. Well, now I have one and it works very nicely. In no time at all I should be back in good altar boy form and this time I am going to stay that way. Dickey the Stick works just fine and it still doesn't need batteries. I highly recommend it!

14 March 2009

Twice as much / Half as much

My father George, God rest his soul, had a favorite saying. Whenever he (or I) learned something the hard way he would always say, “Too old to soon, too smart too late”. These words used to irritate me to no end when I was a teenager but now they come back to me over time and space and they make a lot more sense than they used to. The question that I have during this “economic crisis” is whether or not the banks and the mortgage companies and the automotive companies, etcetera, are asking for double the amount that they really need in the hope of getting at least half of what they ask for. After all, if you ask for double what you need and you get half of what you asked for you should be happy, right?

When I first came to Mexico I had a real problem with “prestamos”. The verb “prestar” means “to lend” and the word “prestamo” is a noun meaning “a loan”. The men where I work were continually approaching me for “prestamos” and they would tell me the saddest, most convincing stories that I ever heard relating to their dire needs. If the need wasn't for a baptism of a child then it was for a sick relative or a new pair of shoes and so on and so forth. Being the gullible and guilt ridden Gringo that I am I always felt compelled to help out whenever I could. The problem was that it started getting out of hand and getting rather expensive. Not only did I have more and more money out on loan but it was getting harder and harder to collect it from the “debtors”.

I dealt with my frustration as long as I could until common sense overcame embarrassment. I went to my boss and discussed the matter with him. I told him all about it and he chuckled and told me that the first thing that I should do is wear ear plugs and when they come around I should tell them that I am “sordo” (deaf). The next thing that I should do if I felt absolutely compelled to loan them money is to be sure and loan them only half of what they ask for because half is really only what they need. I said “Do you mean to say that when a man with tears in his eyes tells me that he desperately needs 400 pesos for the baptism of his firstborn child that I should only lend him half?”. He said, “That's right because that's all that he was expecting to get and if you give him 400 then you just gave him a big bonus. Then he and his buddies will drink more cerveza and he will probably not come to work on Monday and on Friday his pay will be short and he won't have enough money to start paying you back...if you can find him.” Well, the minute he said that it sounded very familiar and I decided that I needed to find a satisfactory solution to this problem before I went broke.

I learned that the “mayordomo” (general foreman) of our shop whom we call “El Machete” is a master at handling “prestamos”. Not only that but he maintains a “caja” which simply means “box” but in another sense means a savings plan something like what we would call in English a “Christmas Club”. The men contribute varying amounts of pesos every week which El Machete collects and controls and whenever someone needs a prestamo he loans them the money out of the caja and they must pay it back with interest. At the end of the year just before Christmas, each contributor gets their money back with a share of the interest. I started contributing 100 pesos per week to the caja and then when people came to me for prestamos I could in all honesty say, “Sorry, but I already gave to the “caja” so you must go see Machete for a prestamo”. At the end of each year I get all my money back plus interest. I immediately put most of it back into the caja again because after Christmas there isn't much in the caja for prestamos and for these people, financially speaking, January is a long hard upward climb. They call it “la cuesta de Enero”, or “the hill of January”. The workers are aware that I do this and they are appreciative, so I no longer have problems with being pestered for prestamos.

Yesterday, I was reading a book called “Old Mexico and Her Lost Provinces by a man named W.H. Bishop that was published in 1889. Mr. Bishop describes a visit to a large hacienda as a guest of the owner. He wrote:

“The room first entered from the main corridor in the house itself was devoted to the uses of a despacho, or office. Here was the department of Don Angel, and the master himself sometimes took his place behind the long, baize covered table, strewn with matters of business detail, to hold audience with the peons of the estate, who came, with wide brimmed hats humbly doffed, to make known various wants and complaints. In the corners stood rifles, spades, and the long branding-iron, which is heated in the month of August to brand the young cattle with the device of their owner.

A fat dark peon enters, and proffers a request for an allowance to be made him for a baptism in his family.

'A baptism?' says the master briskly. 'Well, now, come on! Speak up; don't stand mumbling there! Let us see what your ideas are.'

The man suggests, deferentially, to begin with, the sum of $3 for a guajalote, or turkey, as a pièce de résistance for his feast.

'You are always wanting a guajalote, you people. You don't need anything of the kind. However, let us say $1.50 – twelve reals – for the guajalote. What next?'

'The pulque – about forty cuartillas of pulque.'

'Twenty cuartillas of pulque,' says the master, ruthlessly cutting down the estimate by half. 'Well, what next? Speak up!'

The peasant, one of the laborers by the year, perseveres in his humble, soft voice, regularly making his estimate for each article twice the real figure, and having it as regularly cut down. He caps the whole by demanding four reals for a sombrero, well knowing – and knowing perfectly well that his master knows also – that the kind of sombrero he would be likely to want costs but one real.”

So now I know that this game has been going on for a long time. I ask you for double and you give me half. I guess that is fair enough. If someone wants something badly enough they can always turn to another source to get the other half. I hope that our new president is aware of this game and can play it like the old master in the story and my friend El Machete. If not then perhaps he might end up like me...

Too old too soon, too smart too late.


12 March 2009

Dialog - The Movies

Oye cariño, hace mucho tiempo no fuimos al cine y hay una película nueva estrenando esta semana. Mi hermana ya la vio y ella estuvo encantada.
Hey Sweetheart, we haven't been to the movies in a long time and there is a new film coming out this week. My sister says that she has already seen it and she was delighted.

¿A poco? ¿Cómo se llama la película?
Really? What is the name of the film?

Se llama “El Pie del Rey” y las estrellas son Xavier Fulano y Maria Zutano.
It is called “The Foot of the King” and the stars are Xavier Fulano and Maria Zutano.

Suena muy interesante. ¿Quién es el director?
Sounds very interesting. Who is the director?

El director es Alfredo Mengano.
The director is Alfredo Mengano.

Muy bien. Una película con Fulano, Zutano, y Mengano debería ser fantástico.
Very good. A film with Fulano, Zutano, y Mengano should be fantastic.

Pues...entonces vámanos. ¿Me vas a comprar palomitas y un refresco?
Well...let's go then. Are you going to buy me popcorn and a soda?

Por supuesto mi amor, como siempre.
Well of course, my love, just like always.

There is an added bonus in this dialog. Note the play on words. The title of the movie is “El Pie del Rey” or The Foot of the King”. A “pie de rey” is also a measuring device that is called a “vernier caliper” in English. Also, the surnames of the actors and director are “Fulano, Zutano, y Mengano”. These names are the Spanish version of “Tom, Dick, and Harry”. Also, I called one of the actors “Xavier Fulano”. Many people, including myself refer to “X. Fulano” (Eckees Fulano) when they are talking about someone in a rather off hand manner and can’t remember or don’t know his name. It also works in the feminine with “X. Fulana” (Eckees Fulana) or “Fulana de tal” meaning “Fulana so and so”. There are several other names that are sometimes used in the same manner as “Fulano, Zutano, y Mengano”. They are “Peringano, Meringano y Sultano. There is another name that you may hear but you really shouldn't use except perhaps in a joke. The name Sancho is used to denote a man who is sleeping with another man's wife. Sancho is the guy who comes around when the man of the house is away and takes advantage of the situation.

08 March 2009

The Essence of Chicharrón

To put it in a nutshell the essence of chicharrón is food made from pig skin. However, that certainly isn't the end of the story. Since the skin of the pig is undoubtedly one of the best parts and there are so many different ways to prepare it for eating, the word “chicharrón” is merely a name for what in Mexico is almost a major food group. There are regional differences in how people eat chicharrón and what they call it and so my comments are limited to what I have experienced here in Central Mexico in the town of Irapuato. I will attempt to explain it as best I can but in no particular order of importance. I guess the best place to start is the outside of the pig and work in. There are two forms of the very top layer of pig skin or “epidermis”and they are both called “cueritos”. One form is “cueritos en escabeche” which is very thin strips of blanched pig skin pickled in vinegar. I won't be talking about that form today. I will save that and pickled pigs feet, one of my favorites, for another time.

There is another form of “cueritos” that is thin pieces of pig skin that come from the process of making “carnitas” where the whole pig is cooked in its own lard along with orange juice and beer and various “secret” ingredients. This type of skin would come under the general heading of “chicharrón” even though it isn't specifically called by that name. Actually there are several types of pig skin that come out of the carnitas cooking process that fall under the category “chicharrón” depending on what part of the animal they come from. In some places the subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin) is very thin and thus the “cueritos” are mostly thin pieces of skin. In other places however, the layer of fat under the skin is very thick such as on the back and the belly. This fat clings very stubbornly to the skin and the two are very hard to separate. This is also where much of the lard comes from that is rendered out during the making of carnitas. This type of chicharrón is often used to make “chicharrón con chile” by cooking it with serrano chiles and tomatoes. It is soft and gelatinous and a bit spicy but served with arroz mexicana (rice with tomato, garlic, carrot, and onion), it is a delicious and popular dish among country folk. There is another form called “lonja de cerdo” (or “fatback” in English) which is small squares of skin with fat about one half inch thick that come from the back of the pig. These are fried in a pan until the lard is rendered out and they turn brown and crispy. They are very tasty.

There is a form of chicarrón that I call “chicharrón crudo” but no doubt it is called by many other names. I first had this type when I lived for the first year in the Mexican State of Nuevo Leon with two parish priests. My good friend Padre Humberto just loved chicharrón that he would bring home in a paper sack that was so soaked with grease that it was almost transparent. This type of chicharrón is not skin but mostly fat with little pieces of meat attached. I am sure that it is not very good for you but it sure does taste good. If I could, I would go back in time and space this very instant and share some chicharrón crudo with Padre Humberto.

Now we come to the forms of chicharrón where the lard has been mostly rendered out and they are in a firm or “dry” state. The first of these is called “cuero duro” meaning “hard skin” and often just called “duro”. This is made from pieces of skin from which most of the subcutaneous fat and hair has been removed by scraping. The pieces of skin are then boiled in water and hung up to dry for about twenty-four hours. Then they are placed in vats of very hot vegetable oil until the skin “puffs up” and becomes thick and light like a piece of foam. The skin is drained and left to cool and harden into sheets. Below you can see some photos that I took of a small town “durería” or “place where duro is made”. These photos were taken on a Sunday afternoon and they were getting ready to close. In the foreground of the second picture you can see pig skins waiting to be deep fried. In the third photo you can see bags of “papas dorados” (potato chips) and “tacos dorados” (tortillas folded over and deep fried). The fourth photo shows the finished “cuero duro” ready for sale. The pieces shown here cost between twenty and forty pesos depending upon the weight at sixty pesos per kilo. Duro can be used in several different ways. It is often used as an “antojito” or “botana” (appetizer or snack) served in hand sized pieces with salsa mexicana (salsa de bandera) or a salsa picante like salsa Valentina or salsa San Luis. I just love this stuff!

Another form of chicharrón is called “chicharrón delgado” (thin chicharrón) which is similar to duro but isn't boiled first and is deep fried in “manteca” (lard) instead of vegetable oil. In contrast, “Chicharrón grueso” (thick chicharrón) is also pig skin deep fried in manteca but it has pieces of meat attached. Both types type of chicharrón are broken into pieces and cooked with jitomate (red tomato), chile serrano or chile guajillo, and tomatillo (something like a green tomato but it isn't a tomato) which here in Irapuato the people called “tomate de hoja” or just plain “tomate”. They add a little water to these ingredients and it makes a nice “guisado” (sauce or gravy). Now we come to “chicharrón prensado” which is made from small bits of meat that are left in the manteca after the carnitas or chicharrón processes and are put in a press and pressed into a semi solid block. This block is then cut into pieces and prepared similar to chicharrón grueso.

In addition to the actual forms of chicharrón there are dishes in which chicharrón is used. Two of my favorites are made with cuero duro. The first is a signature dish of the the city of León, Guanajuato. It is a sandwhich called a “guacamaya” (sometimes spelled “huacamaya”). The word “guacamaya” is the Spanish name for the parrot that in English we call a “macaw”. I don't know why they call the sandwhich “guacamaya” other than the sandwich, like the bird, is very colorful. To make a guacamaya they take a bread roll called a “bolillo” and split it open with a knife. Then they remove much of the non-crust portion of the bolillo which is called the “migajón”. In place of the migajón they put little broken pieces of cuero duro along with salsa mexicana made with tomato, onion, and chile serrano. Another dish that I like is a thick bean soup made with “frijoles de olla” (slow cooked beans) which is added to broken pieces of cuero duro. It is heavenly.

I am sure that I probably left out a bunch of information and maybe I even left out more than I put in. In fact, it would probably take a whole chapter of a book to fully explore all the ways that pig skin is prepared for eating in Mexico. For those of you think I left out something important I welcome your comments. For those who didn't know that the subject of chicharrón could be so complicated, at least you have a start. In any case, to each and everyone of you I say...

¡ Buen provecho !

(click on photos to enlarge)

07 March 2009

El Horario de Verano

In the United States people are changing their clocks tonight and jumping one hour forward. Mexico does not change the time until April 5th. In Mexico, Daylight Saving Time (DST) has been observed since 1996 except that down here it is called "el horario de verano" or "the summer schedule". The U.S. government decided to change the DST schedule in 2007 for some very controversial expected benefits (mostly political). Since Mexico is much closer to the Equator the benefits are almost negligible and so to avoid feeling like the tail of the dog Mexico decided to leave things just as they were. That's okay except that it really plays havoc with international communications and trade for a few weeks.

So, if you live in Mexico don't touch that clock yet, my friend. Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 a.m. local time on the first Sunday in April. On the last Sunday in October areas on Daylight Saving Time fall back to Standard Time. Sonora stays all year around on Mountain Standard Time because it has so many economic and social ties to Arizona which doesn't observer DST either (except for the Navajo Nation, in northeastern Arizona). Other areas of the U.S. that don't observe Daylight Saving Time are Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands. I noticed that Don Concho, the nice old guy who guards our block, doesn't observe any set schedule. I asked him about that and he told me that he doesn't own a watch and he doesn't have a clock in his house and he doesn't even have a television. He comes to work when he thinks the time is about right and he goes home when he feels that the day is over. He laughs at the fact that we try and control the sunlight. Right after he told me that I took off my watch and threw it in the bottom of my sock drawer. Don Concho is right!

By the way, It is NOT Daylight Savings time either. There's no "s" after Saving. It's Daylight Saving Time. Just so you know...

06 March 2009

Spring Break, Firearms, & Cuban Cigars

This morning I came across a publication by the Brownsville, Texas, Customs and Border Patrol arm of the Department of Homeland Security regarding travel to Mexico for "Spring Break" which you can download here:


Here is part of it:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection requirements

Report drug and alien smuggling. Call 956-542-5811 in the U.S., 001800-0105237 from Mexico.

Prohibited / permissible items:

1. All articles acquired in Mexico must be declared.

2. $800 exemption for gifts and personal articles, including one liter of alcoholic beverages per person over 21 every 30 days.

3. Cuban
cigars are prohibited.

4. Check with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CB
P) about importing any medications prior to crossing into Mexico.

5. CBP has a zero-tolerance policy on illegal drugs. Any type, in any amount may result in serious fines, seizure of vehicle, federal record and/or imprisonment.

6. Switchblade knives, sea turtle boots or any ot
her articles of endangered species (i.e. spotted cats, coral, crocodile, elephant, etc) are prohibited.

I noted several things of interest that perhaps one of you legal beagles out there can help me with. Under "U.S. Customs and Border Protection requirements" it says in big letters "WARNING: IT'S ILLEGAL TO CARRY FIREARMS OR AMMO INTO MEXICO". I am certain that it is illegal in Mexico but under the heading, "Prohibited/permissible items", firearms aren't mentioned at all even though they didn't forget Cuban cigars which warranted a whole line of its own. This implies that it may be okay to carry firearms across the border from the standpoint of U.S. laws but not Mexico's. Since great amounts of money and firearms coming into Mexico from the United States are half of the drug problem I think it should be made very clear that it is illegal under U.S. law to cross the border into Mexico with firearms and if it isn't than it should be. I hope that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano takes note of this. The drugs will stop flowing North when the money and the guns stop flowing South and maybe the blood will stop spilling also.

02 March 2009

Fine! Fine Fine!

There is a Mexican ranchera song gaining popularity not only in Mexico but all over the western hemisphere. The song is by Julión Álvarez Y Su Norteño Banda. The song is called “Las Mulas de Moreno”. It has a catchy chorus that goes:

“¿Qué te parece?
Fine fine fine. Very good very good very good.
Very very very very good”.

Lately whenever I ask somebody how they are doing they start singing “Fine, fine, fine, very good, very good, very good, very good.” A lot of the time it sounds like “Fie, fie, fie, berry goot, berry goot, berry goot”.

¿Qué te parece? Means “How does that seem to you?” or “How does that sound to you?”. The rest of the song is mostly nonsense. For example, the first stanza goes:

“Si quieres ir a lazar a las mulas de moreno
Si no quieres ir a pie ensilla a la guajolota”

Loosely translated this says:

“If you want go and rope the mules of moreno
If you don't want to go on foot saddle guajalota”

I say loosely translated because there is no telling what double meaning that the author or authors had in mind. The song sounds like it was written by a bunch of amigos sitting around telling jokes and drinking beer.

Another stanza goes:

“En una tinaja de agua a un vaquero me encontré
Dándole agua a su machete y afilando a su caballo”

"In a tub of water I found a cowboy
Giving water to his machete and sharpening his horse"

The words “machete” and “horse” are reversed leading one to assume that either the singer or the cowboy was drunk.

In any case, here is the YouTube video with the lyrics down below.

Lyrics of the song “Las mulas de Moreno” of Julion Alvarez

Si quieres ir a lazar a las mulas de moreno
Si no quieres ir a pie ensilla a la guajolota
¿Qué te parece?
Fine fine fine. Very good very good very good.
Very very very very good

Me subí por el sincho
Meté pie por el tapojo
Y al llegar al conjincillo me encontre con el tubero

¿Qué te parece?
Fine fine fine. Very good very good very good.
Very very very very good.

(y que truene la tuba salvaje mi compa cheque, animo viejo)

Y yo tengo mi caravina que acaba de chicharrones
Con que le tiro a los patos corazón por que estas triste

¿Qué te parece?
Fine fine fine. Very good very good very good.
Very very very very good.

En una tinaja de agua a un vaquero me encontré
Dándole agua a su machete y afilando a su caballo

¿Qué te parece?
Fine fine fine. Very good very good very good.
Very very very very good.

(y vengace a bailar chiquitita con su compa julion alvarez y su norteña banda oiga )

Al pasar por tu ventana me tirates un limon
Si yo te tiro con otro que necesidad hay de eso

¿Qué te parece?
Fine fine fine. Very good very good very good.
Very very very very good.

El la punta de aquel cerro tengo una chiva amarrada
Si la chiva se soltará que chingaso se daría

¿Qué te parece?
Fine fine fine. Very good very good very good.
Very very very very good.

Si tu quieres disfrutar de las mulas de moreno
Llevátelas para arrollo pa que no te mire naiden

¿Qué te parece?
Fine fine fine. Very good very good very good.
Very very very very good.

Ya con esta me despido del rancho de san Francisco
Hasta el año venidero nadando por el desierto

¿Qué te parece?
Fine fine fine. Very good very good very good.
Very very very very good.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.